The year 2018 is a significant year for Africa and more importantly Nigeria, as it is the targeted year to end corruption in the continent with Nigeria leading the fight. This challenge was made by the association of African Leaders, the African Union, in July, as it endorsed president Muhammadu Buhari to champion the fight to end corruption in the continent by 2018. Likewise, Heads of anti-corruption agencies in Common Wealth have also endorsed Nigeria’s own Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to host the next conference of the association in 2018.
It is not surprising that African leaders have seen the need to address this menace called corruption that has stunted economic, political or social growth and development in the continent. Every region in the continent reeks of public officials’ abuse of office for personal gains and interest, from cases involving money laundering in billions of dollars and pounds; illegal acquisition of assets; misappropriation of funds; to negligence and total abandonment of responsibilities to the masses. This cankerworm has made the continent a constant object of ridicule and disrepute, inviting negative comments and assertions from notable world leaders and their countries alike. Beside the soiled image, the ineffable hardship and backwardness visited on the continent because of this menace necessitate the need to fight back. Thankfully, African Union has made the swift call, urging Nigeria to take the lead. However, the readiness of Nigeria in the pursuit of this AU 2018 vision is another thing altogether. the pertinent question therefore is how ready is Nigeria to deliver in 2018?
Considering the pivotal position Nigeria occupies in the continent from history; being at the forefront of negotiating peace and independence for some countries in the continent; arguably becoming the power hub of Africa, it is only normal that Nigeria plays the big brother again in the quest to liberate this great continent, setting it on the path to positive transformation. This agenda has come at a time Nigeria itself has had enough of corruption and is desperately seeking for a total cleansing of the system.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari at the onset of his administration as the president of Nigeria launched the war against corruption and vowed to hold defaulters accountable, it was a thing of joy to imagine Nigeria on the path of being significantly, if not totally liberated from the shackles of corruption that has bedevilled its entire system of governance. However, two years on, whether the fight is successful or not is a question of politics. Nigerians are not unanimous on this and understandably so. Popular belief had been that, the anti-corruption war was going to be like it was in the days of the renowned War Against Indiscipline (WAI), the government of Buhari was going to be rigorous and swift in prosecuting and convicting suspected corrupt officials, even though the process at that time was an issue for the rule of law and could not have been possibly accommodated in a democracy, the expectations of the fight being rigorous was never in doubt. However, those expectations have been dampened with incessant cases of reported public lootings running in billions of dollars by high profile government officials, incumbent and ex, walking free without an arrest or a charge. No synergy between the administration’s anti-corruption outfits.
Similarly, the current leadership of the National Assembly has unresolved cases of corrupt practices trailing their reputations, even more worrisome is the unresolved allegations of corruption marring the reputation of the EFCC chairman, the body tasked with fighting corruption. In the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), persons under investigation by both EFCC and ICPC are being nominated to sit as board members of the institution; cases of reported recovered loots being re-looted. The worst blow ever dealt this fight was the report released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics on the Nigerian corruption survey, which exposed the disposition of the masses toward corruption in Nigeria. The report which indicated that 95% of Nigerians will receive or give bribe if given the opportunity is a testament to the fact that corruption indeed isn’t merely a systemic and governance issue, but a culture.
A corresponding report from the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime showed that a whooping N400 billion is given annually as bribes by the masses to public officials. Most disappointing is that the most critical institutions in the fight against corruption; the police, prosecutors and the judiciary, reportedly came top in the lists of corrupt institutions in the country.
The above raise sensitive questions about who is fighting corruption? What then has this administration been fighting for in the last two years? Is it truly determined to end corruption in Nigeria or is it aspiring to? How willing are Nigerians to liberate itself from this shackle? Are they honest compatriots who can comfortably lead the fight bearing in mind that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands? How can this fight be attainable when we still struggle with transparency and accountability in the affairs of governance? Now that we have been mandated to champion the same fight in Africa, how prepared are we to meet this demands within THE timeframe?
As a country, we need to appreciate that the fight against corruption must be won. The dire consequences that this culture of corruption has unleashed on this country is enough motivation to declare corruption a taboo for this country. We must move at a speed of light if we must go beyond the wishful thinking to end corruption in Nigeria. The fight cannot start without first and foremost, sanitizing the judiciary to be able to truly deliver justice blindly, the prosecutors and the police institutions, to adequately prosecute offenders without compromise, and the masses to totally abhor corruption, rejecting, condemning and criminalizing it in every form.
Understandably, we cannot always have the best laws, but having a judiciary that is truly pro development will be strategic to this fight. sanctions must go beyond mere forfeiture and paltry jail term with an option of a bail for any offender. Corruption demands the harshest prize to be paid because it has a ripple effect on the society which ultimately translates to many deaths among the masses. Thus, countries that abhor corruption know that it cannot be courted. China and North Korea, for instance, have death sentence for public officials involved in bribery, corruption and other related crimes; Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Myanmar, Vietnam all share the same sentiments.
Except if it is business as usual, this administration must appreciate that this snail movement cannot yield meaningful results. The stated commitment to combat corruption comes with a corresponding responsibility to implement strategies of preventive measures, criminalization and law enforcement, international corporation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange as prescribed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes.
Thankfully, institutions already exist in the country to ensure the above, however, they must be strengthened to truly achieve a corrupt free society. Suffice to say, the absence of consensus between the three arms of government is one of the biggest challenges to anti-corruption in Nigeria.
The call to end corruption in Africa is real and Nigeria only has few months to deliver on expectations. This is an opportunity to reclaim our position as the continent’s pace setter and harness every resource available to us to collectively eradicate this shackle, at least, let us begin in earnest. like Frantz Fanon rightly stated, “each generation must out of relative obscurity discover it’s mission, fulfil it or betray it”. Will Nigeria grasps this opportunity or will it be business as usual? WILL NIGERIA FUFILL THIS MISSION, OR BETRAY IT?